Bank of America denies more checking fees

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ATLANTA,None - A Bank of America spokesperson denies published reports that a spate of new fees are about to hit checking accounts, according to an email received by Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland.
 

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the new fees are only months away.

Georgia could be key to the bank's plans.  The state has been a test market for more than a year and new checking accounts in Georgia have been subjected to an experimental fee system. 


The Georgia experiment charges varying fees that customers can avoid by doing things like banking online only or keeping high balances.

Banking consultant Joe Waites said the average checking account costs the average bank $300 per year to administer, so fees are fair.

"Banks have costs just like everybody else. A part of those costs are people. So if you want to eliminate more jobs, let’s just keep taking more money away from banks," said Waites.

Bank customers told Strickland the fees would not be welcome.

"It's just not fair. It's just not fair. Not in these times," said customer Janet O'Melia outside a Bank of America branch in Conyers. O'Melia has a basic checking account which, if opened today, would be subject to a $9 per month fee.

"I will leave.  I will leave and go to my little community bank in Covington," she vowed.

Customer Steve Taylor said he followed several rules to avoid fees, but he has a business account.  The account is not covered by the bank's fee policy on personal accounts, so Taylor noticed a fee hike effective in April.

"The next thing you know, you get a letter saying those rules don't apply. Now you have to do all these other things to avoid fees or get hit with this higher fee.  It's just nuts," said Taylor.

A bank spokeswoman sent Strickland an email saying, “Media reports this morning provided inaccurate information.  Bank of America is not planning to increase checking account fees with our existing customers. Since January 2011, Bank of America has been testing checking account options for new accounts only, in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts.” 

“Bank of America is continuing to learn from those tests and has not made any decisions about when, how, or if we would change our fees on new accounts,” the email concluded.

Waites said it's likely those fees will in fact take effect by summer.  He said he wouldn't be surprised if other big banks followed suit.

For more information on the Bank of America fee structure click here.